By Prince Ejeh Josh.
It all started like a piecemeal approach. They were gradually crawling in. Crawling from the far north, crossing neighboring borders; unstopped and unchecked, they crept into the south south and south east. Nobody raised an eyebrow. They saw it as normal movements of persons and goods. Though, strange faces, they were treated with hospitality.
In his “Strange Meeting”, Wilfred Owen noted exotically in one of the lines: “Strange friends”, I said, “here is no cause to mourn”. The south, especially the south east in particular, is not an arena for visitors and strangers to mourn. It’s not a land for “strange persons and strange friends” to gnash or regret. It’s an oasis of peace for everybody. It’s a land of peace. However, it should never be an arena for “strange meetings” by “strange persons”.
These strange persons have ferociously altered their style of movements. They started moving with style, piercing the hinterlands, in a ferocious manner that would send the indigenous inhabitants scampering for safety.
In the meantime, there have arisen many unanswered questions rattling and unsettling millions of minds in the southern part of Nigeria. Since the announcement of the ongoing national lockdown directive by President Muhammadu Buhari about two months ago, basically triggered by the chilling wave of COVID – 19 pandemic in the country, these questions have become more pronounced. Since they remain unanswered, the consequence is a palpable fear genuinely being entertained by many residents of the south east and south south especially.
Flowing from the above, one would be compelled to ask: what is this widespread fear all about?! Should this fear be dismissed as lacking a substantial base on which to place it? Was this fear borne out of hatred or resentment? Or more closely put; whether there’s any objective compass or reasonableness for this alarm. It has become a notorious fact that our national dailies have been left awash by the alarms of help coming from these regions. The cries of anger and seemingly helplessness are too deafening. They have even raised concerns and worries.
Without prevaricating, the fear is all about the looming sinister that may soon hit the regions. The fear of the systematic infiltration of northern youths into the south east and south south. One of the mainstream issues unsettling the mind is not just the influx of the able-bodied strange faces from the northern axis to the south, rather, it’s their modes of penetrating these regions. More so, in the face of a national lockdown and restrictions of inter-states movements primarily ordered by the President in line with the Quarantine Act of 1922 as a way of checkmating and perhaps, possibly curtailing the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The unanswered questions are: why are these northern youths leaving the north in droves or en masse to the south in the face of the national health emergency? Why have they, all of a sudden, found the south east and south south a solace? How were they able to beat hundreds of the security check points manned at the border of each state to the east? Does it mean the presidential directives only apply to the south and exempted the north? What are their missions in the south when it’s dawn on everybody that the economy of each state is shut-down, and movements are highly restricted?
Now, the crux of the matter is this, and it’ll be couched in a question form: why are these northern youths always hidden in-between cows and goods in trucks if their missions are legal? Thousands of these purported Almajiris have been intercepted by members of the civilian taskforce in the south. There are plethora of pictorial and video evidence showing this unwholesome migration. Sadly, they are lumped together with beasts and goods in trucks without any concern for their health and without yielding to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control guidelines.
The health status of these meddlesome interlopers are unknown. Many have seen them as vectors carrying the COVID – 19 and deliberately planted to infiltrate the south and infest them. This theory seems plausible having regards to how these youths are invading the south. Others have even alleged that their mission is beyond infesting the south to maintaining a grip on their settlement or colonisation agenda. Whatever be their reasons for this unacceptable infestation, the federal government must act urgently by intervening in this matter.
Federal government’s deliberate silence over this raging issue has made mockery of State governors’ efforts to enforce the presidential order, and also weaken the extent they could protect their citizens. Government of the federation must come out clear on its agenda. The government cannot be treating certain persons or ethnic as above the law while expecting the fight against Coronavirus to yield positive result. It even occurs to me that federal government is working at variant with many state governments for not allowing the law to apply equally to everyone.
A squint to all the major dailies would should reveal that many southerners, having fruitlessly entreated the federal government to squelch this marauding movement are now ready to resort to self-help. What this shows is that southerners have been unimaginably pushed to the wall, and the only option available is to protect themselves from these gatherings of strange meeting by these strange faces.
Let me quickly make this penultimate observation by noting that I’m not unaware of the constitutionally guarantee freedom of movement enshrined in the Chapter Four of the 1999 constitution (as amended). It is, however, essential to submit that this right or freedom of movement is not absolute. It can be derogated from. Thus, in time of national emergency as we are presently, the constitution allows this provision to be set aside for the maximum interest of the maximum number of citizens.
Finally, I make bold to submit here that majority of the Coronavirus pandemic cases in the south east came from the north. They were violators of the subsisting lockdown order by the federal government. They have made the job so herculean for our governors. Even the security agencies are not helping in the fight. They are accomplices to this crime. This, however, will be a topic for another day. Let me leave my readers with this question: among all the zones in Nigeria, why the sudden interest in the south east and the south south at a time like this?
DISCLAIMER: All views expressed on our opinion page are those of the writer and do not represent the position of INSIDER or any of its reporters/editors.